COLIN MATTHEWS (b.1946): Violin Concerto (Leila Josefowicz [violin], BBC Symphony Orchestra; Oliver Knussen), Cello Concerto No. 2 (Anssi Karttunen [cello], BBC SO; Rumon Gamba), Cortège (Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra; Riccardo Chailly).
Catalogue Number: 07S009
Description: Three major works that further confirm Matthews' status as one of the UK's most significant composers, endlessly inventive within his idiom of highly individual tonality and striking rhythmic vitality. The 2007-09 Violin Concerto is in two sections, in a formally free structure. It begins mysteriously, with shades of Berg's concerto, soon gathering energy and velocity and then relaxing back into a kind of nocturnal interlude. The second section begins as a slow movement, one of Matthews' vast pulsing engines, over which the violin weaves increasingly intricate traceries. This gives way to scurrying figuration which becomes an energetic, propulsive finale in which the opening motif finally reappears to round the work out. The much earlier Cortège (1988) reminds us of Matthews' profound connection to Mahler. The work is dark-hued and rather menacing, with a massive, ponderous tread anchored by a recurring timpani motif, and suggestions of tolling bells, forming an impressive, forbidding edifice. The climax is startling - one senses the composer gleefully realising an ambition conceived when he first heard Mahler's 6th and 10th - and its aftermath a shocked descent into shadow. In between comes the 2nd Cello Concerto, which shares the shadowy massiveness of Cortège - three-and-a-half of its five movements are slow - and the lyrical virtuosity of the violin concerto, though here the soloist is passionately pleading, not an ebullient celebrant as in the more recent piece. The explosive central scherzo features some whirling, hyperactive 'mechanisms', though here these sound unstable, on the brink of malfunction.